What 20 Years of Working with Family Offices Has Taught SEI Family Office Services
As the Archway PlatformSM celebrates its 20th year serving family offices, SEI Family Office Services is looking back on the lessons we’ve learned throughout two decades of client service interactions, thousands of product development hours and seemingly endless internal discussions.
Here is a list of 20 lessons we’ve learned since the Archway Platform got its launch in 2002:
- Family offices require purpose-built accounting and investment tools. Wrought with limitations around entity consolidation, complex transaction processing, investment data aggregation and end-client reporting, industry-agnostic software is simply not designed to handle the intricacies of ultra-high-net-worth (UHNW) wealth. As family offices have become increasingly sophisticated, so have our solutions, allowing our clients to handle their particular nuances like complex entity structures, multiple households, vast portfolios and diverse investments.
- …but there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to family offices. Although it’s been said countless times before, each family office presents its own unique organizational structure, investment strategy and set of operational processes. Family office software should be flexible enough to adapt to each family office’s distinct needs.
- Financial reporting can only be as good as the underlying data. The only way to ensure reliable reporting is to input clean, accurate data into your system of record from the start. Period.
- We can all agree: Excel is not a long-term reporting solution. Spreadsheets permeate nearly every walk of life, but they are not sustainable when it comes to financial reporting for modern family offices. Whether the need arises out of a desire for greater automation, accuracy or security, family offices seek out applications that simplify and streamline complex reporting processes.
- Technology presents myriad opportunities to automate key family office operations. Family office technology, including the Archway Platform, has come a long way since the early 2000s. From accounting close processes and investor allocations to bill payment approvals and wealth reporting, workflows have been built to automate an incredible number of historically manual processes—and today’s family offices demand more automation than ever before.
- We know what we are—and what we aren’t. SEI Family Office Services delivers a comprehensive suite of accounting, investment data aggregation and reporting capabilities. We specialize in partnership, portfolio and corporate accounting alongside bill payment, investment management and multi-asset class data aggregation. We handle complex cash management, transfers and gifting and fee billing. We offer hundreds of financial statements, asset allocation overviews, performance analytics and holdings reports. But we know there’s more to a family office than what the Archway Platform can do, and we don’t strive to over-engineer our solution for a function it was never meant to perform.
- Best of breed and integrated family office software solutions have unique benefits. Fundamentally, the Archway Platform was built to replace multiple applications (see Lesson Learned #5). But we also know there are a variety of reasons why a family office may continue to use ancillary systems for certain functions. To help family offices interconnect their ecosystem of technology and service providers, we’ve made a significant investment over the years to create integration points with a variety of third-party applications. We’ve learned to help family offices use the Archway Platform as a standalone family office solution, or as a hub of their broader technology ecosystem.
- Technology models should be tailored to the family office. Family offices need options when it comes to how they consume technology solutions. After all, not every family office is equipped—nor wants—to run an enterprise application. To that end, SEI Family Office Services has adapted how our clients are able to leverage the Archway Platform, allowing them to use the technology in-house, outsource the work to us or employ some combination of both in-house and outsourced resources to run the platform.
- Technology and service evaluations require structure. Selecting a technology or service provider is never a decision that should be made lightly. Over the years, we’ve completed countless use-cases, proofs-of-concepts, questionnaires and consultative discussions, making us keenly aware of the importance of those tasks in the decision-making process.
- Scalability is a leading consideration when making a wealthtech decision. A solution that can grow with a family office is far more viable in the long-term than a solution that meets singular needs right now. Throughout the years, we’ve implemented new tools that allow our clients to efficiently expand their usage of the Archway Platform—whether it’s the addition of entities, households, portfolios, assets, users or functionality.
- …and outsourced services can also serve as a mechanism to help family offices create efficiency. When capacity and bandwidth run short, family offices need a strategic partner that can serve as a seamless extension of their internal team. Whether it’s an unexpected short-term gap or a long-term strategic decision, SEI Family Office Services has built an offering that allows our team to work alongside our clients through tailorable partnership administration, personal expense management, portfolio reconciliation, consolidated reporting and family office outsourcing services.
- Technology plays a key role in business continuity—as underscored in 2020. Whether our clients were using the Archway Platform within their own four walls or working with our outsourced service teams, we found that they were well-equipped to handle the migration of their operations from in-person to remote work environments overnight. More notably, the shift reinforced the importance of a trusted, dependable technology provider that is prepared to evolve with you.
- A family office wealthtech strategy is more than functionality. Functionality should not be the sole set of criteria used to define a family office wealthtech strategy. Our experience has illuminated the value of a clearly defined, holistic strategy that takes into account the opinions of multiple stakeholders, technology and staffing infrastructure preferences and data availability.
- Change management is critical for a successful family office wealthtech implementation. Technology conversions require planning, resources and, most importantly, time. Ensuring that our family office clients are properly equipped to manage an implementation project is paramount to meeting deadlines and setting expectations.
- Clients are the greatest driver of product enhancements. The Archway Platform was born out of a need for a better fund accounting solution, but the evolving needs of our clients have shaped the platform into the award-winning family office solution it is today. Their requests, recommendations and feedback have paved our product roadmap throughout the years, and continue to do so today.
- Innovation is not a destination. Our desire to evolve and grow the Archway Platform has been omnipresent since we first entered the family office market in 2002. To this day, we continue to aggressively pursue strategic initiatives, introduce new functionality and evolve the way our clients interact with and consume our technology.
- Product training and education are evergreen. We cannot overstate the importance of our clients and how we interact with them. Over the years, we’ve grown our library of client service mediums to include comprehensive product documentation, self-service support tools, detailed how-to guides, client-specific instructional opportunities and user training conferences—all of which are designed to provide an optimal client experience.
- A strong family office network is priceless. The number of membership organizations, consultants and conference organizers geared towards family offices has soared, even in recent years. Creating a network of peers can be immensely helpful for family offices seeking recommendations, advice or new connections.
- …and our family office client community is one of our greatest successes. For 20 years, we have taken a customer-first approach to our client relationships—and it shows. The impact of our dedication to exceptional client service is evident in the engagement of our client community, their peer-to-peer interactions and our long-lasting relationships with our clients.
- Nothing compares to experience—or the relationships you build gaining it. Like most firms, we’ve felt our fair share of growing pains over the years. But with two decades of knowledge, lessons learned and success to tap into, SEI Family Office Services has developed a staying power few can afford. Our experience has taught us that nothing about family offices—or family office software—is standard, but we’ve built a reputation as a problem-solver, a frontier-leader and an esteemed strategic partner for hundreds of family offices and, in the process, we’ve reaffirmed time and time again that our connections with our clients are made to endure.
With 20 years behind us, and many more in front of us, we are excited for the next era of successes, lessons and innovations. To learn more about our experience working with family offices, schedule a call to connect with the SEI Family Office Services team.
Managing Director – SEI Family Office Services
Paul Freeland is responsible for leading SEI’s Family Office Services business development division, which is responsible for identifying new opportunities in the marketplace and presenting value-add technology and outsourced service solutions to family offices and financial institutions. Previous to this role, Paul served as President of SEI AFO where he oversaw fund administration operations for the firm’s emerging managers segment. Additionally, Paul was a founding executive of Archway Technology Partners, acquired by SEI in 2017, where he was responsible for the outsourcing and back-office administration services for family offices, multi-family offices, hedge funds and private equity funds.
Paul is a graduate of Indiana State University and received his MBA from Indiana University. Paul also holds a CPA designation. Outside of SEI Family Office Services, Paul enjoys long bicycle rides and spending time with his family.